New Advocates: What do I need to know about translating strings?


This section will answer the common questions about translating written language (strings) for Khan Academy.

What are strings? Where do I find them?

I am completely new to online string translation. Why are strings full of strange symbols?

What milestones/guidelines should I follow when organizing string translation for my team?

What is Chameleon, and what does it have to do with translating strings?

Do you have a string translation guide that I can share with my translation volunteers?


What are strings? Where do I find them?

 The graphic below lists the different items that need to be translated for Khan Academy: videos and strings. Strings include all Khan Academy written text (but not subtitles; these are related to videos and accessed through the dashboard under 'subtitles')


In the context of a translation platform, a string is a single unit of translation. Translators translate strings one at a time, and each one is saved separately. Examples:

     "What is 5 times 3?"

     "Find the area of a circle with a radius of 2"

     "Finish signing up for Khan Academy!"


Where can I access these strings?

There are two main ways to access strings: 

1) Translation Portal: Translation teams use the Translation Portal to access and translate videos, exercises, and website text. The Portal contains everything that the translator needs to work on, and is easy to navigate. Here is more information on translating through the Portal.

2) WYSIWYG: With the WYSIWYG feature, strings to translate will appear in the user interface and you can see the results immediately after committing a translation. This will help you understand the context and take design elements and length of the translated string into consideration.

Just show me a video, please!

Okay! Click here. But come back to this page when you're done!

I am completely new to online string translation. What are all of these strange symbols?

When translators encounter strings on the translation portal/ WYSIWYG interface, they will include markup (strange-looking symbols that format the written text). Markup can turn the text bold or a certain color. In particular, written language that contains numbers and equations, such as the language that needs to be translated for Khan Academy math exercises, will have a great deal of markup.


Below is a sentence from an exercise on the KA website. Notice that the sentences contain numbers and bolded words.

          Ten tigers were having a tea party. 4 of them had to go home to finish their homework.

          How many tigers were left at the tea party? 


When a translator encounters this string on the translation portal/WYSIWYG, it will look different: it will be marked up with a variety of symbols:


      $10$ tigers were having a tea party. $4$ of them had to go home to finish their                                homework.\n\n 

         **How many tigers were left at the tea party?**


What are the $ for? Why are there **?  To begin, if a string contains numbers or equations, they need to be enclosed in $. What about the ** before and after the final sentence? This is the markup that formats the text into bold.

When you use our translation interface, you will simply copy the English string with all its crazy markup into a little editor box, where you will translate the words into your language. Don't worry, you will never have to type any of these symbols! 

Here is a French translation:

         $10$ tigres se retrouvent pour goûter. $4$ .\n\n**rentrent chez eux pour finir leurs devoirs.n\n\        

        **Combien reste-t-il de tigres au goûter ? **

 Don't worry about the markup, and in most cases don't touch it. Leave it just as it is. The good news: any markup  that you are not supposed to change is automatically highlighted in yellow. Don't be afraid of any of this; it's all very user-friendly once you start.

Learn more here:

 More puzzling markup: strings embedded in an image

Another case where you may find puzzling markup is in strings for images such as these, which have text embedded in them. The labels for the X and Y axis, as well as the names, are all strings that need to be translated (although depending on your country, you might keep the names). See here for instructions on how to translate the text inside of a graphic.





Technical Issues:

Sometimes volunteers experience technical difficulty accessing strings. If you have trouble finding strings, either on the portal or the WYSIWYG, please contact us!

Sometimes strings do not render (appear) correctly when you try to save them. If you notice this for a number of strings, please contact us!

Sometimes a large yellow box appears when you are trying to save a translated string. This is called a linter, and it is designed to prevent saving translations with incorrect markup. Let us know if this becomes an issue.

What milestones/guidelines should I follow when organizing string translation for my team?

Many advocates wonder when they should start translating strings (in the past, teams often first focused on video dubbing). However, we are transitioning from our current milestones to new milestones. Under these new milestones, a new team's first goal is to reach a Demo site (see below), which requires string translation. For this reason, you may want to begin translating strings early on. For more information on demo sites, please see below:

Demo Sites:

Under KA's new milestones, translation teams can more quickly achieve an interactive Khan Academy  "Demo" site with videos and practice exercises. At the demo stage, you will have a KA interface that looks like the English site, but much more limited. Here is what a demo site looks like (Note: Demo sites were previously called "Test Sites.")

The primary function of this site is to demo to potential sponsors and test with students in pilot projects. When you have a Demo Site, it will be available to all users on the internet. In order to achieve this, teams must accomplish the following:


Achieve 100% localization of at least two of the following subjects:

  • Early math
  • Arithmetic essentials
  • Pre-algebra
  • Algebra-basics
  • Algebra 1
  • Algebra 2
  • Basic geometry
  • Precalculus

100% localization includes translation and approval of all content and platform strings as well as dubbing and mapping of all videos. (For one of the two subjects, you may choose to subtitle instead of dub, if it is a high school level subject like Algebra 2 or pre-calculus, whose viewers would be proficient readers.)

Quality Control

In order to reach the demo stage, KA and your team will work together to make sure that a quality control process is in place for string translation.


What is Chameleon, and what does it have to do with translating strings?

You may hear advocates talking about Chameleon and content freezing. The issue is relevant to teams that already have a Khan Academy site. Put simply, current Khan Academy architecture creates a situation in which changes to English content causes the translated strings to revert back to English. This can be frustrating for translators, and Khan Academy is addressing the situation. Content freezing refers to the eventual solution: KA will modify ("freeze") part of the system so that changes to English content has no effect on the translated KA website. Feel free to ask fellow advocates about the issue. 

Do you have a string translation guide that I can share with my translation volunteers?

You can refer your volunteers to this page:


For our complete list of articles related to string translation, see here:

















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